Tag Archives: romance

Twilight of the Spirit World: Ever After

Standard

A.N.: In which the various sub-plots begin to conclude, characters discover that sometimes good things do come out of terrible situations and Agni…well, I’m not spoiling this for you even more than I already have!

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Ever After***

As it turned out the Council did not have any back-up armies hidden somewhere. In fact, it seemed they had bet everything on one decisive battle, much like the Avatars and their followers had. In the aftermath an uneasy peace had settled as those well enough to travel left for their domains and to inform those that had remained neutral of the situation. Some tentative talks of establishing a new Council had started but the consensus was that it wasn’t a first priority. Most Spirits were old and experienced enough to know how to fulfil their responsibilities without someone breathing down their necks after all. Nearly a week later and in the Council’s palace only a small number of the original arrivals remained, mostly those connected to the Elementals or the more seriously injured.

 

Among the last were also those hit by the black energy. The water Spirits, led by Yue, and Katara (who was holding on to the Water Crystal until the time came to return to the mortal world) were trying everything in their power and, while some progress had been made, most of the victims remained unconscious. Not being able to help much the rest of the gaang had taken to exploring, taking turns to make sure that Katara would remember to eat and rest every once in a while. And, amidst all that, Lia had completely disappeared. Zuko had gone to check on her the morning after she woke to find her room empty. They figured she was still somewhere in the city, but when the redhead didn’t want to be found then she would not be found even by the most determined tracker –not that Toph or Zuko had given up….–.

 

It was therefore no one’s fault really when some of those hit opened their eyes and the news didn’t reach her. Those that did hear however were relieved to learn that, other than complete exhaustion, no other side effects seemed to be lingering. Yue was hesitant to let them out of her sight just yet but she was confident that soon they would be well enough to be moved out of the healing chambers. Agni wasn’t among those first to wake, probably he had been hit in a much closer range but for the last couple of days his aura had been spiking and calming at odd intervals so they figured he would be up and about soon enough.

 

As it happened, when he woke up it was Azula who was the closest, having come to the chambers for some peace and quiet, away from the spontaneous parties that seemed to be springing up everywhere with no warning lately. So deeply she was absorbed in her thoughts, thoughts that centred on a certain lightning Spirit, that she didn’t notice Agni’s eyes opening until he spoke.

“Who rained on your parade Princess?” Azula turned her head so sharply, she could have sworn she heard something crack.

“You’re awake?” she squeaked surprised, wincing at how high her voice came out. Agni managed a small smile.

“Surprisingly yes,” he said, before pausing for a few deep breaths. He still felt so damned tired… “And surprisingly I found you of all people at my bedside.” Azula blushed a little. He had a point. While she didn’t fear his presence anymore, she didn’t go out of her way to be in his company either.

“It was quiet in here,” she explained awkwardly. Agni hummed in agreement.

“I suppose this means we won?” he asked, closing his eyes tiredly. Azula nodded and, realising he couldn’t see her, she added,

“Yes. Everyone’s been celebrating since those hit with the dark energy started waking.”

“What…about…Lily?” Agni asked, his words slurred by the sleepiness that caught him again. Azula turned hesitantly to answer and stopped herself. He had fallen asleep again. With a sigh the Princess stood and went to inform the healers. And if she was relieved not to have to explain to Agni that no one had seen his partner, well, who could blame her?

 

As it was Lia had spent the last few days in a non-corporeal state, floating around the palace and its extensive gardens. She had once told Katara that she didn’t much like to take her Spirit form, considering it impractical, and while she had been confined in the mortal world that had been true. Even in the Spirit world she tended to remain in her more human-looking state, in part to remind herself who she had been before she became fire incarnate. It was exactly these memories that she sought to avoid now, drifting around, visible only as the wispiest of smoke trails, only aware of the different incarnations of her element surrounding her. It was a serene, detached state of being, one that she would have easily made permanent if it weren’t for the most persistent memories and emotions still clinging to her psyche. Much as it hurt sometimes, she still couldn’t leave those she cared about completely behind….

 

It was with that thought being acknowledged that she forced her body and consciousness to be condensed back to her human-shaped form. As her senses slowly returned to her she saw that she was in one of the gardens, one of the older ones, with ancient trees shading the ground and Fire Lilies gently swaying at the breeze, reminding to the morose Spirit of drops of fresh blood. With a despondent sigh Lia sat against a tree, closing her eyes and momentarily blocking her Spirit-nearby-sense. Maybe if she tricked her mind in thinking that she just couldn’t feel him nearby, she could trick her heart into believe he’d come back…

 

A pleasant haze came over her, like sleepiness but not quite, and with it the sensation of warm arms embracing her. She smiled softly at what she was certain was a daydream, if not a hallucination, when a very real pair of lips brushed against her own. Immediately she pushed the person, not even pausing to see who it was, away from her, jumping to her feet and preparing to blast them away. Then her brain caught with her wide-open eyes and as fast as it had come her rage washed away. Agni was laying on his back in front of her, rubbing the back of his head, looking half-amused and half-exasperated and all-together alive.

“You really need to work on the way you greet people!” he grumbled. “You can’t still be mad at me!”

 

He really shouldn’t have snuck out of the healing chambers just yet. He still felt bone-tired and even trying to conjure the smallest flame took more effort than it should. But Agni hadn’t survived for millennia by listening to what others told him to do. And more than the fact he had nearly died he was worried about no one knowing –or knowing and not telling him – where Lia was. So the moment the chamber was empty of healers he snuck out. He had sensed her the moment she condensed back to her human form and headed straight for the gardens. When he saw her resting against the tree he had acted on impulse, not knowing what her reaction would be, and not particularly hopeful either. After all, he had foiled her attempts to save his life in saving hers… Lia had never taken kindly to people helping her without permission… And yet, even with knowing all this, Agni found himself surprised when he ended up on his back…

 

For once in her life Lia found that his snark could not get under her skin. Heck, she’d listen to him snark about anything and everything if it meant that she could have him by her side without worrying about omens. With a trembling laugh she threw herself in his arms, pressing her ear against his chest just to make certain that his heart was beating again. Agni looked at her bemused, but just as he began to ask her what was going on she looked up at him determinedly.

“I love you too, you know,” she said before leaning in to kiss him. For once Agni was more than happy to remain silent. The two Spirits were too absorbed by each other’s presence to notice the petite, green-clad figure that walked away quietly with a smile.

 

Toph nodded to herself, satisfied she hadn’t needed to take any drastic measures to make those two idiots talk properly to each other. Now all she had to do was to let the rest of her friends know. And collect the bet money from Sokka. It had taken them less than a century (starting at the making of the bet, Toph would insist later) to get their acts together. And really, the Water Tribesman had known her for what? Five years now? And he still thought he could win on a bet against her? The earthbender laughed at the silliness of men in general and went off to find Aang. With all that had happened they had had hardly any time to spend alone. And she had a few ideas regarding the restoration of the Southern Air Temple…

 

On her way to where she could sense Sokka and Suki sitting together, and no doubt saying sickeningly sweet things to one another, Toph paused at the sound of quiet talking. Walking closer to the half-open door, she leaned against the wall, unnoticed by Ao and Azula who were too engrossed in their discussion of travel plans to notice much of anything going on around them. It would seem the pull of the Spirit World had caught both the royal siblings even if it was in different ways.

 

Speaking of Fire Nation royalty, when Toph finally found Sokka (Aang was heading over in their direction anyway), Suki and him where sitting with Zuko and Katara, enthusiastically planning something. Toph filled the words “Earthbending police” for later before interrupting the impromptu meeting in her signature way.

“Pay up Snoozles!” she yelled, marching in the room triumphantly.

“What?” Sokka exclaimed startled. “No way!”

“Sokka!” Katara looked at her older brother disapprovingly. “What did you bet on this time?”

“Nothing!” he said in a high-pitched tone that fooled no one. Toph decided to stir his memory.

“Lia and Agni sitting under a tree…” she started singing. Katara and Suki forgot their annoyance with Sokka, instantly turning on the younger girl excited.

“Really?” Suki asked even as Katara exclaimed “Finally!” Toph nodded, satisfied at the reaction her news caused. Grumbling Sokka reached for his purse even as Zuko stood up and headed for the door.
“Zuko?” Aang said confused as the Fire Lord bypassed him on his way out. “Where are going?”

“To find Ao,” Zuko called over his shoulder.

“Last I saw, he was talking with Azula,” Toph called after him, cackling as she sensed the firebender’s steps speeding up. Aang looked at his girlfriend confused.

“What’s going on?” Laughing, Toph pulled him to sit next to her.

“Oh, Twinkle-Toes!” she chuckled. “Where to start?”

 

As it was the two overprotective brothers of Lia didn’t get a chance to corner either her or Agni that day, and by the time everyone had turned in for the night, their drafts on the Talk they would give to the male Fire Spirit had become more elaborate and significantly more violent to the amusement of everyone else. Lia herself had gone to bed in blissful ignorance of the schemes the two hot-heads were concocting. A few hours later she was torn out of her slumber by a nightmare. At least she hoped it was a nightmare…. With everything that happened during and after the battle she was having a hard time distinguishing reality from her visions and her visions from the simple nightmares that played on her fears. Nervously she jumped out of bed and, not wanting to bother with walking, teleported herself to Agni’s room.

 

Instantly a wave of sweltering heat hit her, relaxing her tense muscles. Agni, secure in the knowledge that most people wouldn’t be barging in his room uninvited, kept the temperature in there just shy of that of a lit fireplace, with small clusters of fire floating around the room, seemingly out of their own free will. Lia gently pushed one of them away as it came a little too close to her loose hair. With steadier steps than she would have thought likely she approached the bed, observing the man sleeping there deeply and peacefully. Or maybe not so deeply, she amended in her mind, when Agni cracked an eye open and smiled to her mischievously.

“You’re welcome to join me, you know,” he said, moving closer to the middle of the bed invitingly.

“You know,” Lia said with a smile, “I think I will.”

In which romance is not all it’s cracked up to be

Standard

Romance is supposed to be one of the more straightforward messes a person can and will (inevitably) find themselves in. One meets another, sparks fly, hijinks ensue, yada-yada-yada, happy ending (hopefully). Sounds pretty simple, right? No! So much so that this lovely gentleman, Andreas Capellanus, felt the need to set a list of rules regarding romantic love and its expression in his book, De Amore. Here’s a translation I managed to find:

 

  1. Marriage should not be a deterrent to love.

Since this comes from an era when marriage and love are not mutually inclusive…

 

  1. Love cannot exist in the individual who cannot be jealous.

Love = Trusting your partner? Nooooo!!!!!!! Othello had it right!

 

  1. A double love cannot obligate an individual.

What is that even supposed to mean? Don’t cheat on your lover?

 

  1. Love constantly waxes and wanes.

It’s perfectly normal to give your other half the Scottish shower treatment. Just don’t be surprised when they dump you.

 

  1. That which is not given freely by the object of one’s love loses its savor.

-insert innuendo and undue giggling here-

 

  1. It is necessary for a male to reach the age of maturity in order to love.

And this being the middle ages, I’d estimate “maturity” means around 16 years. Mid-to-late teens? Sounds about right.

 

  1. A lover must observe a two-year widowhood after his beloved’s death.

Not a day more or less!

 

  1. Only the most urgent circumstances should deprive one of love.

But…but…but…rule 4 said….

 

  1. Only the insistence of love can motivate one to love.

Ah…that innocent age before restraining orders….

 

  1. Love cannot coexist with avarice.

Jealousy is just fine though!

 

  1. A lover should not love anyone who would be an embarrassing marriage choice.

Well, that’s pretty restricting, isn’t it? Is the party line “Kind of star-crossed lovers” instead of “star-crossed lovers”? Because it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…

 

  1. True love excludes all from its embrace but the beloved.

Especially that unlucky person you are married to… Although that MIGHT explain why in most later tales Arthur has no children.

 

  1. Public revelation of love is deadly to love in most instances.

“I’m not ashamed of what we have honey! I just don’t want your husband to run me through!”

 

  1. The value of love is commensurate with its difficulty of attainment.

Going back to my point about restraining orders…

 

  1. The presence of one’s beloved causes palpitation of the heart.

Psychic link joke in 3…2…1…

 

  1. The sight of one’s beloved causes palpitations of the heart.

So does the sight of needles or spiders for some people. I always assumed it had something to do with fear…

 

  1. A new love brings an old one to a finish.

Unfortunately not always as Elaine of Astolat learned…

 

  1. Good character is the one real requirement for worthiness of love.

What about that social standing you harping about in rule 11?

 

  1. When love grows faint its demise is usually certain.

Rule 4! Rule 4, bog-dammit!

 

  1. Apprehension is the constant companion of true love.

Especially when you sleep with your employer’s wife, coughLancelotcough…

 

  1. Love is reinforced by jealousy.

In case you missed the point in rule 2.

 

  1. Suspicion of the beloved generates jealousy and therefore intensifies love.

Also tragically murderous or murderously tragic scenes.

 

  1. Eating and sleeping diminish greatly when one is aggravated by love.

In the middle ages the way to a man’s heart was, in fact, not through his stomach.

 

  1. The lover’s every deed is performed with the thought of his beloved in mind.

Every deed?

 

  1. Unless it please his beloved, no act or thought is worthy to the lover.

That’s pretty all-encompassing. What if she’s allergic to peanuts and he loves peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast?

 

  1. Love is powerless to hold anything from love.

Then why is that every other dramatic love confession goes along the lines of: “I can no longer hide my love from you”?

 

  1. There is no such thing as too much of the pleasure of one’s beloved.

Second round of innuendos in 3…2…1…

 

  1. Presumption on the part of the beloved causes suspicion in the lover.

What’s that even supposed to mean?

 

  1. Aggravation of excessive passion does not usually afflict the true lover.

Two rules above: “no such thing as too much pleasure”. Also RULE 4. I think these count as passions!

 

  1. Thought of the beloved never leaves the true lover.

Until they find a new love or the two years of widowhood pass at least….

 

  1. Two men may love one woman or two women one man.

I feel like I should be making a rule 34 joke here….

In which the Welsh invent Rom-Com

Standard

Ever heard of the Mabinogion? It’s collection of stories (originally in Middle Welsh I think) that were introduced to me as one of the earliest collections of Arthurian tales still around. Meaning that there are recognisable names, romance, random supernatural forces, mindless violence, bizarre quests and generally hijinks. Also a Rom-Com. I’m not kidding! Culhwch and Olwen is a rom-com, I swear. Here’s what TV Tropes have to say about rom-coms:

 

“Every story needs a conflict, and since rom-coms are driven by the quest for love, the conflict derives from the obstacles to the quest. This could be the apparent incompatibility of the leads: mutual Love at First Sight is rare. The two characters will spend a good part of the movie fighting their obvious attraction. Eventually, they’ll realize they’re perfect for each other. Or, something will pop up; maybe a Three’s Company kind of misunderstanding, or a revelation in the third act about one of them lying. One of the two characters will storm off in a huff. Or the couple is already married for some reason, and the conflict comes partially from different expectations and misunderstandings.

 

The climax of a rom-com requires the satisfactory recognition of love: the other chases after the love interest and does something really romantic to win them back. The reconciliation scene ends with the two characters reunited in a romantic embrace. Often ends in a wedding.”

 

Now match that to what happens in Culhwch and Olwen: Culhwch, the hero, is cursed to only marry Olwen, who in turn is forbidden by her father to marry at all. Here’s the Romeo and Juliet angle, with Ysbaddaden being either the Big Bad or the Overprotective Father, depending on your reading of the story (coughTenThingsIHateAboutYoucough). Culhwch would then be the Big Damn Hero (whether he deserves the characterisation for any other reason other than his name being on the title is up to debate) and Olwen the Magical Girlfriend.

 

Of course it wouldn’t be a rom-com if there weren’t an assorted cast of characters to surround our star-crossed mains. Call it a motif or trope but Culhwch’s gang can be categorised under Six Go Round The World, a group that includes somebody ideal for every occasion that may arise (also known as token characters). They are provided by Culhwch’s Fairy Godmother of a cousin, our good old friend, Arthur. One might argue that Culhwch and Olwen’s aunt (just go with it) is also a Fairy Godmother, since she enables the two lovers to meet.

 

And, truly, it wouldn’t be a rom-com without wacky shenanigans now, would it? Just have a look at what Ysbaddaden demands Culhwch and co. do before he agrees to the wedding! Sure, serious people call it a quest, but considering an impressive amount of the things the knights collect go towards giving the Big-Not-So-Friendly-Giant a makeover…well….

 

To top it all off, this little, violent beyond expectation, rom-com ends with a wedding. Say what you will about what happens before but at least these two crazy kids will have some fantastic, How-I-Met-Your-Mother-esque stories to tell in the future!

 

Sooooo….How close is my wacky interpretation to the original? Have a look here and see for yourselves!

The Fisherman and the Water Maiden (rewrite)

Standard

Author’s note: I usually don’t post rewrites of pieces I have already uploaded, but I wasn’t happy with how it originally turned out, so here’s the edited version.

The fisherman and the water maiden

In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and reefs, waiting to claim unsuspecting sailors. It was here, the stories said, that water maidens lived. It was rare one might see them, as it was said that they appeared only to those that made them curious. Nevertheless, people said they made excellent wives.

 

In the village lived a poor fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than most considered wise. One year, the young man was making the customary wine liberation ‘to appease the Old Man Sea’, as his elders taught, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher threw the comb right back in the water, not wanting to face a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who had been drawn near by the unfamiliar sweet taste of wine in the water. The following dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more when, out of the gleaming water, came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the gold of the sand on the shore and her hair the many blues of the ocean. Fascinated, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too hard.’

Still laughing, she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. At the end of the week his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too soft.’ With a wink she disappeared underwater again.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing this to be the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she determined to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread to offer to his faery sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a smile, he offered her the loaf and, to his delight, she accepted it.

‘My name is Awel,’ she said softly before diving once more into the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but, before he could, the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

‘Choose wisely, young human,’ said the Old Man. ‘Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.’

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her and said,

‘You are Awel.’

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

‘Know this, young human,’ Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat. ‘My daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! Should you forget she is not bound by the rules of your world three times, she and all that is hers will leave you.’

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised to accept her in every way.

 

And so the fisherman brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. And if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves, what did it matter? Everyone agreed that they took after their mother and he loved them just like that. Days turned to months, and month turned to years, and the fisherman counted himself the happiest man in his village. Then, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he chastised his wife for not having the house prepared for his return. Awel looked at her husband.

‘I cannot live all day by the hearth,’ she said. ‘Take care.’

 

The fisherman understood the warning and, loving his wife too much to lose her, paid extra care to avoid anything that might cause her departure. For a while all was well in his household once more. Then, after a terrible storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The man might be lost but he was far from dead. The fisherman, hurt by his wife’s reaction, scolded her. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

‘I know of things you cannot know,’ she said. ‘Take great care.’

 

The third and final error came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maiden and, as maidens are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried, knowing her daughter forever bound to land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman insisted she stop crying on a happy occasion. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

‘Your rules do not bind me. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.’

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s prosperity.

The fisherman and the water maiden

Standard

In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all-. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and underwater reefs, just waiting to drown an unsuspecting sailor.

 

It was perhaps because of that, that the sailors often returned with stories of the water maidens, beautiful blond women whose songs were what caused the drownings. Despite their lethal reputation they were thought to make excellent wives for those cunning enough to entice them to the shore. In fact, many of the older families in the area boasted of having a water maiden as an ancestress.

 

Now, in the village lived a poor young fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than what most might consider prudent. One year the young man was making the customary wine liberation “to appease the Old Man Sea”, as his elders said, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher knew if the stories, so he threw the comb right back in the water, not particularly wanting to be at the receiving end of a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who, having never tasted wine before, had been drawn near the boat by the unfamiliar sweet taste overpowering that of the salt in the water. The dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more. The newly-risen sun painted the water gold and out of it came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the blue of the deep ocean and her hair the gold of the sand on the shore. Remembering the stories he had heard, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s too hard.”

With one last laugh she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. One week later his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s far too soft.” With one last wink she disappeared underwater once more.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing that this was the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she set off to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread with the instruction to offer that to his fey sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a shy smile, he offered her the loaf and –to his delight- she accepted it.

“My name is Awel,” she said softly before diving once more to the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but before he could the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

“Choose wisely young human,” said the Old Man. “Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.”

 

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her in the eyes and said,

“You are Awel.”

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

“Know this young human,” Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat, “my daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! If you strike her unnecessarily three times she, and all she has brought, will leave you.”

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised never to lay a hand on her for anything other than a caress.

 

And so the young human brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe, no matter how treacherous the water he treaded. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. So what if the floor of their house was never quite dry? They lived close to the shore, some damp was inevitable. So what if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves? There were six of them and born as closely as they were, there was always a baby to focus on.

 

Life was as perfect as could be for the fisherman until, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he lightly pulled his wife through the door. All laughter immediately stopped. Awel looked at her husband.

“This was the first strike,” she said. “Take care.”

 

The fisherman loved his wife and had no intention of losing her. For the longest time he paid extra care, fearful that he might forget himself and bring her closer to her departure. Alas the day he feared came sooner than he thought. After a particularly nasty storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the unfortunate man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The fisherman, embarrassed by his wife’s reaction and not privy to her knowledge, lightly rapped her hand. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

“This was the second strike,” she said. “Take great care.”

 

The third and final strike came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maid and, as maids are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man from their village. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried knowing her daughter forever locked in the land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman lightly struck her hand once more. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

“This was the third strike. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.”

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s preternatural luck.

In which I ponder shipping

Standard

A while back I wrote a post in defence of fanfiction. You might want to consider this one the whacky sequel. You see, shipping and fanfiction go hand-in-hand. And yet we don’t really pause to consider what compels us to assume that two characters would be a match made in Heaven? Is it that we see ourselves as one of the characters and want to give them the happy (aka perfect) relationship we might lack in real life. Is it that we believe that such a relationship would be beneficial to their character development? Is it plain and simple fanservice? Something else? All of the above? For me it would be all of the above. I have shipped characters because the relationship I saw developing between them was one I would like to experience in real life. I have shipped characters because I considered a romantic relationship between them an inevitable conclusion (coughAvatarcough). And yes, I have used the justification “But they look ADORABLE together!”. Fan wars aside, one of the cardinal rules of shipping is that if you can think about it, then someone out there is probably shipping it. (Of course that implies the existence of some rather disturbing pairings, but when you’ve hung out Fanfiction.net for as long as I have you learn to ignore them. Besides, I’m told Tumblr is scarier.)

Immature as it might be, I love shipping. I enjoy mapping out character interactions in general (which is why I cannot abide movies/series/books with more gunfire than dialog) but there is something about romance and the Molotov cocktail of contradicting emotions it causes that opens up so many possibilities. You know that scene in Moulin Rouge where they describe the premise behind El Tango de Roxanne? Yup, that at least partially sums things up for me. Even when considered through the cold lenses of science love is the product of a chemical instability. Well, to me, instability = chaos and chaos = interesting plot points. Why are romantic subplots casually inserted? Because it is an easy way to provide conflict and thus get the story going with new momentum if you hit a lull.

But I’m moving away from my topic: why ship? It’s easy if the pairing you support is considered cannon. Your actions then can be seen as building up to pre-established events. Heck! Implied pairings (you know the drill: long, longing looks, more shared screen time than what might be the norm, use of tropes usually reserved for romantic interactions…) get more respect than fan-made pairings. Fannon is what receives the heaviest fire. After all, if Word of God says two people are meant to be together, then who are you, the lowly fan, to say otherwise. Um…a fan? Besides, how often did you see a canon pairing and went “THE HECK?” I remember the first time I watched Big Bang Theory. It was a Season Two episode, I think, and I basically walked in on a scene between Penny and Sheldon. Something about their interaction immediately filed them under established pairing/will-they-won’t-they-situation. Imagine my disbelief when my brother, who had been watching the show for a while, informed me that Penny ends up with Leonard. I’ve watched the show on and off and I’m sorry, I don’t care what Word of God says, I stick by my initial assessment.

Romance has a different meaning for everyone. We carry over our experiences, our dreams, our expectations, and we project them on the characters. In a way (if you are not scared of giving your psyche an honest look) shipping helps clearing up what we do and don’t want out of a relationship. Granted, it’s also fun to speculate, especially in much-loved shows, but when it comes down to it even the most mindless of activities can teach us something if we actually bother to think it through.

The maid and her two lovers

Standard

A maid lived once, much beloved,

Of the ocean and the sun.

Long had the two in combat met

To win her tender favour.

Long had the maid despaired

Over her lovers’ strife.

One summer day, on the pebbled shore,

She stood and so she cried:

‘Oh Ocean, ever-tumbling, ever-lasting,

Much do I love thee!

Your waves embrace me in passion

Your currents lead me on a woman’s dance.

You ebb and flow, you follow

My lady Moon’s commands.

Your burning, salty breath heals

The sickness of my body.

How can I part from thee, beloved,

When all my inner self belongs

To thy passionate demands?’

The Ocean much swelled in pride

To gain such favour from the lovely maid.

But still the maiden cried and turned

Her flowing eyes to the sun.

‘Oh Sun, all-burning, all-revealing,

How can I not love thee?

Your gentle kiss and your caress

Warm my frost-covered skin.

Your smile is favour to my lady Earth’s

Bounty that feeds my kith and kin.

Thy love is distant, yet enduring,

Thy affection steadfast and true.

How can I part from thee, beloved,

Whose favour helps endure the winter months?’

The Sun hears and swelled with pride

At the maiden’s commendation.

But still the maiden despaired

At the fickleness of her own heart;

To have such worthy suitors

And yet unable to love one.

She wept and wept and wept.

Her tears painted her lover Ocean’s

Waters blue.

She wept and wept and wept.

Her tears were dried by her lover Sun’s

Rays as kisses soft.

All day and night the maid lamented

And in the coming dawn,

Her kith and kin came to the coast,

To find no maid; only a tree,

Prickly and gnarled with tears

Streaming from its leaves

And ever kissed by Ocean and Sun.

Can vei la lauzeta mover & Tristrant muose sunder dane

Standard

Συνεχίζοντας το… Αγιοβαλεντινιάτικο θέμα της εβδομάδας, επιχείρησα να μεταφράσω δύο ποιήματα από το σημερινό σεμινάριο. Η αγγλική μετάφραση στην  οποία βασίστικα βρήσκεται εδω.

Can vei la lauzeta mover

1. Όταν βλέπω τον κορυδαλλό να πετάει

Γεμάτος χαρά προς το φως,

Και να ξεχνιέται και να πέφτει

Από την γλυκύτητα που γεμίζει την καρδιά του,

Α! Πόσο ζηλεύω

Όταν βλέπω τους μακάριους!

Δεν ξέρω γιατί η καρδιά μου

Από τον πόθο δεν λιώνει.

 

2. Αλί! Πόσα νόμιζα πως ήξερα

Για την αγάπη, και πόσο λίγα ξέρω!

Γιατί δεν μπορώ να μην αγαπήσω

Αυτή που δεν θ’ανταποκρίνει τα αισθήματα μου.

Έκλεψε την καρδιά μου και όλο μου το είναι

Και όλα όσα είναι και όλο τον κόσμο –

Κι αφότου με λήστεψε, δεν μου άφησε τίποτα

Εκτός από πόθο και μια καρδιά που λαχταρά.

 

3. Ναι, δεν μου ανήκει ο εαυτός μου,

Και δεν μου άνηκε από την στιγμή

Που στα μάτια της με άφησε να κοιτάξω,

Σ’ένα καθρέφτη που μ’αρέσει.

Καθρέφτη, από τότε που είδα τον εαυτό μου σε σένα,

Οι αναστεναγμοί με σκοτώνουν,

Κι έχασα τον εαυτό μου όπως

Ο όμορφος Νάρκισσος χάθηκε στην πηγή.

 

4. Οι γυναίκες μου προκάλεσαν μεγάλη δυστυχία.

Καμιά τους ποτέ δεν θα εμπιστευθώ.

Κι ακόμα κι αν κάποτε γι’αυτές πολεμούσα,

Από αυτή την στιγμή αποστατώ,

Μιας και καμιά τους δεν θα με βοηθήσει

Ενάντια σ’αυτή που με καταστρέφει.

Απελπισία και δυσπιστία για όλες τους,

Γιατί το ξέρω, είναι όλες τους ίδιες!

 

5. Κι έτσι η καλή μου φαίρεται σαν “γυναίκα”

(Δικό της το λάθος!)

Γιατί δεν επιθυμεί ό,τι ένας άντρας επιθυμεί

Κι οτιδήποτε αυτός της απαγορεύει, αυτή το κάνει.

Έχω πέσει από την επιείκεια.

Φέρθηκα σαν μωρός,

Και δεν ξέρω το γιατί:

Ήταν τα όνειρα μου πολύ μεγάλα;

 

6. Όλη η χάρη έχει χαθεί –αλήθεια-

(Κι ούτε καν την ένοιωσα!)

Μιας και αυτή που θα έπρεπε να την έχει

Δεν έχει καθόλου, που θα την βρω λοιπόν;

Α! Πόσο φριχτό (αν την βλέπατε)

Που αυτή που της ανήκει αυτός ο σκλάβος της αγάπης

Που τίποτα κάλο δεν θα έχει χωρίς αυτήν

Με αφήνει να πεθάνω, δεν με βοηθάει καθόλου.

 

7. Αφού προσευχές, ευχαριστίες, και τα δικαιώματα μου

Δεν μπορούν να μου χαρίσουν την Κυρά μου,

Κι αφού δεν νοιάζεται καθόλου

Που την αγαπάω, ποτέ δεν θα της το πω.

Όχι,  θα την εγκαταλείψω, θα την παραδώσω.

Με δολοφόνησε. Σαν τους νεκρούς μιλάω.

Φεύγω μακριά αφού αυτή δεν με κρατάει

Αποθαρρυμένα, σε εξορία, δεν ξέρω που.

 

8. Τριστάνε, τίποτα άλλο δικό μου δεν θα πάρεις.

Φεύγω μακριά, αποθαρρυμένος, δεν ξέρω που.

Άλλο τραγούδι δεν θα ξαναγράψω.

Κρύβω τον εαυτό μου από αγάπη και χαρά.

 

Tristrant muose sunder dane

Ο Τριστάνος στεκόταν, χωρίς χαρά,

Ανάμεσα στης Ισόλδης τους πιστούς,

Γιατί η υποταγή στο μαγικό το φίλτρο

Είναι δυνατότερη ακόμα κι απ’την αγάπη.

Γι’αυτό αγαπημένη μου πρέπει να με’φχαρισείς

Γιατί το φίλτρο ποτέ δεν ήπια,

Κι όμως η αγάπη μου είναι δυνατή,

Καλύτερη απ’την δική του, αν είναι δυνατόν.

Όμορφη κόρη,

Χωρίς ψευτιά,

Θ’ανήκω σε σένα

Αν μ’αγαπάς αληθινά.

Olwen’s Throne

Standard

Olwen is wise and fair

Patient as the sea she waits.

The old giant’s hold over the land

Cannot (in truth!) last forever.

Countless do come, seeking her hand,

Their rings by her spring are left as mementos.

 

They were not worthy, so,

Patient she waits for the one

That will be the other half of her soul.

The one to undertake

Her father’s forty tests.

The one to who, though difficult,

They will be easy, as easy as a child’s play.

 

He comes to her, this fresh,

Green youth, demands that she follows,

Calls her ‘girl’ and ‘love’, does not, cannot see,

White track has lived

Far longer than his father’s line.

She will not have a husband or lover or king

That is to her not equal, nor father to her people.

Off to Ysbaddaden he’s gone, to gain his lady’s favour.

 

Culhwch returned triumphant.

With blood he painted his hall red.

The blood of Bencawr roars like a stream

Like the ever-turning waves of the misty Caer Sidi.

And Olwen, now queen,

With a smile leaves her father’s home,

To grant her grace over her husband’s land.

Olwen is wise and patient as the sea,

And the red garment of Sovereignty certainly suits her.